Prosser Poll Boost Won’t Perpetuate Populism

NZ First MP Richard Prosser made some stupid comments about Muslims. He was rightly vilified and his true colours were shown to the country. It is not surprising that his column is published in Investigate Magazine, the editor of course being Ian Wishart. His magazine would best be described as pandering to populist readers while publishing as much crazy as advertisers will permit.

Then this morning I read on the NBR website that polling supposedly shows that NZ First is gaining in the polls. We may have to endure Winston Peters as a populist kingmaker after the next election. The likelihood of NZ First gaining over 5% means that no party can rule out the possibility of a coalition. It is unclear what Winston Peters’ traditional post-election reversal will be yet. So far he’s gone back on working with National (ended up as Treasurer) and the baubles of office (ended up as Foreign Affairs Minister and untold amounts of Airpoints).

All of this speculation however misses a truth that many people forget – populist politics always fail. In the end, no matter how popular someone like Winston Peters is, enough special interest groups will be annoyed that he will sow the seeds of his own destruction. The global trend over the past few hundred years is towards universalism, populism is like a reactionary spasm that gets stamped out as soon as possible.

Even if many people in NZ First’s target market agreed with Prosser’s anti Muslim comments, that doesn’t mean that anyone who matters does. The kneejerk response from the media proved that making any anti-universalist comments is simply not acceptable. Yes, he is obviously a bit thick, but even occasional outbursts of stupid simply must be drowned out by commentary that simply makes populist politicians look like they’re “up against it”.

The adherents of the universalist creed want to be liked. And that means that they will bend over backwards to stamp out anyone who engages in crimethink from the House of Representatives. In doing so, they actually make it more likely that populist outbursts like Prosser’s get accepted without critical examination. They are basically shooting their own ideology in the foot.

There’s no need to make comments like Richard Prosser did. It’s stupidity on his part. But the New Zealand media jumping on the topic like they did probably did more harm than good. What if their alarmist reporting triggered a spontaneous protest in front of one of our embassies? What if their eagerness to please resulted in a diplomat being kidnapped or worse?

The eagerness of many in the New Zealand electorate to quietly agree with populist nonsense like this won’t last forever. But just watch as NZ First realise how they can use sockpuppets to successfully float racist policy proposals and significantly increase the influence they have over the direction a future coalition government takes. Such action would make Don Brash’s Orewa Speech look childish.